Giving and profit are opposites. Aren’t they? Are they?
Here is a play on words based on the King James Version rendering of 1 Corinthians 13:3. Some may conclude that the wording of this old translation is at times difficult to understand for contemporaries. Yet more than that I wonder, perhaps the very argument Paul is trying to make here is at variance with common ways of thinking. But suffer me to present my play on words.
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor… and have not charity it profiteth me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3/KJV).
When you give away money you do not think of profit. The money thereafter is not at your disposal any more. You cannot buy anything with money you don’t have any more.
If you had taken those earnings to a bank perhaps you’d gain some interest at least. This used to be true. Actually in my country interest rates are very low at present.
This is why many banks suggest you might invest your money in some stock or in shares. This may be profitable. Yet it may also end in great loss, depending on the market and the economic situation of the companies you have chosen for this investment.
I don’t know about your countries. But in Germany you may hear some management consultants saying: If you give away money to needy people and if you advertise this properly, this will encourage people to buy your products. Apparently folks are more inclined to trust a producer who shows he cares for those who are in need.
To be honest, I have never paid taxes to any other country than my own. So I don’t know other tax systems. Round here, however, you can mention the amounts you gave to registered charities in your tax statement and thereby reduce the taxes you have to pay. But I am not sure if I ever made great earnings by that. In most cases the deduction you achieved will be lower than the amount you have given away.
Charitable institutions are commonly referred to as non-profit organisations. They are not aiming at financial gains. They are passing the money they receive to needy people. They need some cash to keep going. Anybody who is employed there will not likely become very rich by his or her earnings.
So what to make of the strange mix of words in the bible verse quoted above. What does St. Paul mean by speaking of giving, charity and profit within one sentence?
St. Paul was not a management consultant. He was a religious teacher.
Speaking of profit he did not think of material gain. Rather he was concerned with how to achieve God’s blessing and how to be pleasing to Him.
In various religions of the world people have been aiming at moving some deity to be favourably inclined towards them. Can we merit God’s favour by giving away money?
St. Paul asks us about why we are giving. What motivates us? Heartless giving is not that which God is requiring from us. Love makes a difference. Later in chapter 13 Paul is describing the kind of love he is speaking of.